1. Know your goal
Before you walk into the ring, it’s essential to have a goal in mind. Are you trying to win the speed class?
Is your only goal to have a clear round, no matter the place? Do you just want to get over the whole course without falling off?
Or are you going to let an inexperienced horse learn his job, even if it means knocking a few poles?
All of the above will change the way you ride the course and the risks you’re willing to take in terms of approach, turns and distances.
2. Plan your ideal line
While things might not go exactly to plan in the ring, it’s always good to have your ‘ideal ride’ plan in mind.
So if you’re walking a combination or related distance, position yourself at the point of the first jump where you want to aim to land (normally the middle, but this might change for a jump off course for instance!) and walk the exact line you want to take, right up to the next fence.
This tip is especially important on curved lines, as straying from the line you’ve walked could add in or take off extra strides.
So if you’re planning on taking the inside line during a jump off, walk that line rather than the safe middle one so that you know what ride you’re going to need to get there safely and easily.
3. Look around for any distractions
Look at where your horse will enter the ring, where you’ll canter your circle before the first fence, and any spooky or distracting parts of the arena that your horse is likely to take notice of.
This might be a fence with a scary filler underneath, a fence where you’re jumping from the sun into shade, or external factors like judges’ boxes, grandstands, or banners.
If you know your horse is likely to want to drift towards the arena gate or shy away from the horseboxes parked on one side, make a mental note of where they are and be ready to correct the behaviour before it happens.